There’s a saying: ‘When a student is ready, a teacher will appear.’ Over the years, I’ve learnt a lot from the teachers who appeared in my life, from church camp counsellors, to experienced mentors, to business leaders. Many entrepreneurial ventures down the line (some successful, some not so much) I still look for guidance. Everyone should.
Somewhere along the way, people also started asking me for guidance. I tell them that everyone can be a leader, irrespective of where they sit on the company organogram. Leaders live and work with integrity and have a purpose that others buy into. Leaders can’t be leaders without followers – and you can’t force anyone to follow you.
Leaders must lead. A leader’s job isn’t to please everyone; it’s to do the right thing, even when a decision that has to be made is going to be unpopular. Leading isn’t always going to be easy.
What are some of the lessons I learnt along the way?
Focus: I started lots of small companies that didn’t really take off, so I asked myself what these companies would be like in 10 years’ time. Then I focused on the ideas that would have a long-term payoff.
Vision: You should also be able to define ‘what’ you want to be; what your purpose is. People who know what you stand for, and who want the same thing, will help you to get where you want to be.
Partnerships: When choosing who to do business with, do proper due diligence checks.
Documents: Draw up proper legal documents upfront. Everything is great when you’re starting out, but you need to be prepared for when things go wrong – and they will.
Perseverance: Being an entrepreneur sounds glamorous but if you can’t work hard, as in 24/7 hard, then don’t start your own business.
Change: If plan A doesn’t cut it, roll out Plan B or C. Or even plan F. At King Price, we often say that we built the ship while we were already sailing, but we’ve weathered all the storms.
Risk: If you’re overly risk-averse, you probably shouldn’t start a business. With risks come rewards.
Balance: Do you need a perfect solution? Or do you need a solution now? Sometimes, a quick decision or a speedy implementation will be more important than a perfect solution.
Skills: The skills necessary to be a good leader? Good communication, active listening, showing empathy, building trust, leading by example, emotional intelligence. Also, an innate EQ is crucial.
Emotions: Managing your emotions means not only being aware of your feelings, but knowing how to deal with them. It’s a key skill for these crazy times and it’s a lot harder than it sounds!
Service: Being a leader is a calling. It’s much more than a job or something you train for; it’s part of your destiny and it starts young, by serving others.
If I learned anything during this coronavirus pandemic, it is that leading through uncertainty isn’t for the faint-hearted. In fact, the last 18 months are among the toughest periods of my professional life. Leading through constantly changing and uncertain times means that you have to be more agile and flexible, more connected than ever to your people and your clients, and more in touch with your authentic self. That’s true leadership.
This is a summary of Gideon’s chapter in the recently-published book, The Book Every Leader Needs to Read.